Today, the word convoluted has a more figurative meaning of "difficult to follow", but when it was first used in James Petiver's late seventeenth century Philosopical Transactions journal, it had the very literal definition of "twisted round" something (and the noun form, convolution, was attested in the 1540s with a meaning of "a state of being rolled up", often in a botanical context. The term comes from the Latin verb convolvere, which translates to "roll with", from the prefix con- ("with") and the infinitive volvere ("to turn"). Con- derives from the Proto-Indo-European root kom (also "with") and volvere is reconstructed to Proto-Indo-European wel (also "turn"). According to Google NGrams, usage of convolution peaked in the late 1990s while usage of the verb convolute peaked in the early 2010s, which is interesting.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.